with less than a week to christmas, there are some funny parallels i have been observing here in britain-canada-united states. it's this thing called 'need to shop.' i like buying things, especially if i have been looking for them with great sense of futility. discovering amazon.com was something of a wonder and some sort of sign from god, because i would know that now, the world's merchants are on tip of my fingers! with my first pay cheque from lincoln, i bought a tivoli raio, henry kloss model two, yes, from amazon, because there was a nil chance that i would find a tivoli dealer in the local area. the month after that, with my second pay cheque, i bought the subwooper for it. and yep, ive been rugging them around home to home, as i traveled quite a bit since then. they have been the heart of my little dorm room, they have been the voice of sanity in banff. they have been a soothing blanket while i was trying to figure out what to do, working as a barista at starbucks. and now they are here in chinley home, channeling many voices and thoughts (thank you spotify!)
my black backpack is a very old one, it's literally falling apart and it drives my housemate crazy whenever i use it, because it's 1. tattered, 2. it's starting to develop a small hole, which could drop important things like headphone jacks, pencils and such. i had it for over twelve years, so it's understandable i suppose. but even with the fancy chrome single shoulder messenger bag around (considered very stylish- may be that's why i dont use it so often), i often pack the daily weight into the tired old black bag. it's been to mexico, to all over eastern europe, scotland trekking and so many different rails and planes. obviously, i will toss them at some point, but i am not sure when that will be.
like many others, i have adopted the new tradition of mania love for aussie boots. however, i must make a distinction it's blundstones, not uggs that i really like. i have a pair of simple ankle length boots, blunnies, we called them in toronto (funny enough it is so popular in yyz but i havent seen them here at all!) that will turn four years old. they are starting to show their age on the heels (i tend to wear out the outer heels of my shoes), however still strong, water-proof, happy and multi-functional. in fact, i often pack this single pair of shoes for all trips. do i wear them on stage? well, yes, i do. when i first met fish's father, he was amused that i was doing some intricate piano pedaling with such thick, farmer's boots. haha. in fact, i think that's the first thing he said to me: hello, nice to meet you, were you really playing the piano with those boots? haha. these ones, i have no idea when they will retire. i am hoping i can squeeze another year or two and it seems very possible.
generally, i do consume and buy. i like the process. i like to find out what i need and to decide how it will be- which product? from where? what should it do? colour? options? company? a product one purchase could illustrate many things about the new owner. and often, the things we acquire helps us to be an individual and could make huge differences in our lives. my orange bicycle, from early-mid 1970s, expresses me rather well i think. it's often oiled and cleaned, though the gears have not been working as long as i can remember and the tires needs changing (no more grooves left). but slightly smaller framed than the supersized bikes of nowday, it's light (for a steel frame) and easy to maneuver, with no real bells and whistles. functional, old, loved and yes, i am happy that no one will dare steal it from me (not worth the efforts i suppose), though i do lock it every time i park it, often with double locks. and another example would be that i would never go buy an apple product. a long story but give me a pc and android product any day. i dont even have itunes since my first and last macbook crashed on me during my dissertation three years ago.
so what's with this upcoming criticism of 'season of buying?' well, i think it's a bit misguided. did things ever make anyone truly happy over a length of time? yes, sometimes. but it is rare, one would agree. and though we are no longer a majority christian society, certain traditions are kept strong, if a bit changed. for instance, minnow's younger son will be working on boxing day at the nearby town buxton. the town has many more shops and is quite larger. so he expects that it will be fairly busy during the whole shift, which is quite nice, because the day goes much faster. and strangely enough, i thought this boxing day shopping mania was a north american thing. i remember when i first came to canada, companies and shops often paid huge fines to open the doors to eager consumers when boxing day fall on sunday- yes, not even fifteen years ago, toronto shops were often closed during sundays. the iconic sam the record shop opened, along with few merchants, and it was a big talk of the town: should we let these giant merchants who can absorb the fines to ignore the law and be ruthlessly commercial? well, we know how that went. it would be an anomaly for downtown shop to not open with ridiculous sales on boxing days.
but you see, the tradition of boxing day is more of a victorian thing, so that slightly skewed my view (gullible monkey!) christmas boxes and often leftover food were distributed to tradesmen for their good service during the year by middle class victorians. before that, churches dating back to middle ages would collect anonymously in metal boxes, to be opened at st. stephen's feast day, where the donations would be spread among the poor. and since all wealthy families had some form of family servants (even now), it was required that the house servants would stay in the employer's house to ensure a good christmas; only after their christmas have ended, the servants would be granted leave to see their own families, with the forementioned christmas boxes.
now boxing day means buying things by boxes i think. hahaha. pardon the pun.
it's not a criticism, but a curiosity from me. what is it that you must have? often in states, you hear about people crushing one another, especially on black friday sale (which is now being adopted by the british, though they have nothing to do with the thanksgiving tradition at all; i once wrote on amazon.co.uk wall and said is it really a great thing for the brits to adopt this american 'tradition'- well, it's safe to say i was stoned to death on discussion board within five minutes. i deleted my post, as it was really making people angry, which was bizarre). and i am thinking it's not a localized event, but of a global matter. if there were opportunities, people will run over others, because of a certain dire need to purchase.
there are times when people are desperate for things, enough to steal, lie and fight. recent flood case in haiti rings a bell. so was the southeastern asian tsunami. flood in pakistan. if you didnt get your hands on it, it would be gone and you might never see it again. you might never see to another day again. your children may perish and you may have to bury them not only in ground, but in your heart. water. medicine. attention. the act of consumption for life must continue in the most dire situations. and when in such context, most of us will fail to retain the social grace that we once praised so highly.
but boxing day sales? how can it be even be compared to the needs for life? one simply would not die because one's television is 38' not 40'. and if one is purchasing television for happiness, perhaps one is making a big mistake- acquisition of goods and personal happiness may co-exist simultaneously, however, they are two dependent situations, unrelated to another. acquisition of goods and the consequent consumption should be realized as a tool, a mean to achieve happiness, however, they are never the core of happiness. it is never the things themselves, but of one's interaction with the things, where the object becomes part of life, of present.
i recently had a small run-in conflict where i felt the need to address an individual over one's mean of acquiring goods through manipulation- a situation when the individual felt that the conducted behavior has been tolerated over the time (that it never has been a big deal) hence, my reaction- which was to address the situation in rather non-english sense (perhaps too direct?) has been received as a quite a shock. and i chewed over the reply for couple days. i wondered and questioned whether if i was being too demanding- i requested that as i try my very best not to be manipulative, that the individual should also make a note, that though his behavior may be acceptable as a habitual thing, a good citizen owes to his community to be honest and sincere, not only to minimize such mishaps but also to create a built-in altruism.
what is about this built-in altruism? well it's quite simple; a social code of conduct is built on agreement of the general population not only to minimize personal loses, but also to protect and foster one another. sharing of materials is a great case of altruism. being respectful of other also reflects the self-respect. being considerate of other allows one to be considered by others. a selfless action eliminates the conflicts of selfishness. an honest action and clarification in communication will eliminate sources of misunderstanding. and after all, it's just goods- it is made and exchanged for consumption. so why not be aware of self-motivation and the process of acquisition?
it's been a silent treatment for couple days but i suppose i could not help but to make a rather sharp point. why? not because i want an apology for self nor i want to reverse the situation. but because i think it is very important for one to be aware of not only the desire for the goods, but of the context of goods that is represented through desire, acquisition, social conduct and self-aware-consumption. not because i am 'right,' but because it is a duty of a citizen to be aware and conscious through one's actions and consequences through one's life.
it all makes me wonder once again about this focus on consumption of goods, where a good relationships are threatened through machiavellian behaviors (or simply incomplete understanding of one's own conduct), blinded by the needs for things, and boxing day- the day of sharing have became the antonym of itself, the day of buying and personal acquisition. but hopefully, there are enough of us who are crushed once or twice by the weight of the things we haul through life (the more you own, the more you would want, the more you are responsible for and the more you need to maintain) and along with those who are courageous enough to take a second look at one's own consumption behavior to keep the spirit of things going. life is series of consumption. even unborn babies, if necessary, will consume mothers to prepare for birth. that's always been the way. life is never free. we are all consumers. so if we have to consume and we like to consume, why not be in in the full spirit of it and do it well?
so after eating large sunday roast prepped by minnow and the subsequent supper made from the roasted chicken stock and lovely dumplings (thanks to local ad veggie sales from cornershop), i send you all much love and a small request for awareness for consumption. it's always much more enjoyable when you know what you have and what you will do with it. like chestnuts and open fire. i am lucky to fill self up silly with such luxury.